A lovely vehicle for sharing nature with children.

READ REVIEW

SALAMANDER SKY

The spring salamander migration, the beginning of breeding season, seen through the eyes of a young enthusiast.

Having waited for just the right conditions, a young girl and her mother go out into a rainy evening to search for salamanders attempting to cross busy roads. The story of amphibian migration, when frogs and salamanders leave their winter burrows and return to the wetlands and ponds where they were born to lay eggs for another generation, has been told several times in sweet stories of ecologically conscious children and their parents. In a relatively simple text set out in short lines, the protagonist relates facts about salamanders she has learned from her mother, “the scientist”; her anticipation; and her satisfying experience. The text has the look but not the sound of poetry, with some awkward word choices. But it’s a quiet, patient story, beautifully reflected in Sodano’s paintings, which are done with colored inks, crayon, water-soluble pencils, and digital techniques. These show a black-haired, olive-skinned child and her diverse classmates, salamanders at varying life stages, and the early-spring woodland world near her home. There’s a map showing that spotted salamanders (the species depicted) range broadly down the East Coast and into the Midwest. These excellent illustrations help bring the girl’s expedition to life and add information, too.

A lovely vehicle for sharing nature with children. (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9990766-4-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Green Writers Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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For many readers, uneasy optics will take the fun out of this romp.

LLAMA UNLEASHES THE ALPACALYPSE

From the Llama Book series

Llamas, alpacas, and clones—oh my!

In this sequel to Llama Destroys the World (2019), hapless Llama once again wreaks unintentional, large-scale havoc—but this time, he (sort of) saves the day, too. After making an epic breakfast (and epic mess), Llama decides to build a machine that will enable him to avoid cleaning up. No, not a vacuum or dishwasher: It’s a machine that Llama uses to clone his friend “of impeccable tidiness,” Alpaca, in order to create an “army of cleaners.” Cream-colored Llama and light-brown Alpaca, both male, are pear shaped with short, stubby legs, bland expressions, and bulging eyes. Paired with the cartoon illustrations, the text’s comic timing shines: “Llama invited Alpaca over for lunch. / Llama invited Alpaca into the Replicator 3000. / And then, Llama invited disaster.” Soon the house is full of smiling Alpacas in purple scalloped aprons, single-mindedly cleaning—and, as one might expect, things don’t go as planned. Mealtimes (i.e. “second lunch” and dinner) offer opportunities for the “alpacalypse” to emerge from Llama’s house into the wider world. Everyday life grinds to a halt as the myriad Alpacas bearing mops, dusters, and plungers continue their cleaning crusade with no signs of stopping. That is, until the Alpacas realize they are hungry….It’s all very funny, but the sight of the paler-coated Llama exploiting the darker-coated Alpaca, for whom nothing brings “more joy than cleaning,” is an uncomfortable one.

For many readers, uneasy optics will take the fun out of this romp. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-22285-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Phoned-in illustrations keep this quick overview firmly planted on the launch pad.

THE BIG BEYOND

THE STORY OF SPACE TRAVEL

A capsule history of space exploration, from early stargazing to probes roaming the surface of Mars.

In loosely rhymed couplets Carter’s high-speed account zooms past the inventions of constellations, telescopes, and flying machines to the launches of Sputnik I, the “Saturn Five” (spelled out, probably, to facilitate the rhyme) that put men on the moon, and later probes. He caps it all with an enticing suggestion: “We’ll need an astronaut (or two)— / so what do you think? Could it be YOU?” Cushley lines up a notably diverse array of prospective young space travelers for this finish, but anachronistic earlier views of a dark-skinned astronaut floating in orbit opposite poetic references to the dogs, cats, and other animals sent into space in the 1950s and a model of the space shuttle on a shelf next to a line of viewers watching the televised moon landing in 1969 show no great regard for verisimilitude. Also, his full-page opening picture of the Challenger, its ports painted to look like a smiley face, just moments before it blew up is a decidedly odd choice to illustrate the poem’s opening countdown. As with his cosmological lyric Once upon a Star (2018, illustrated by Mar Hernández), the poet closes with a page of further facts arranged as an acrostic.

Phoned-in illustrations keep this quick overview firmly planted on the launch pad. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68010-147-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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